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What do I do with my daughter's binge eating?

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We discovered a trash bag full of candy wrappers, frosting cans, a nutella jar, fruit roll-up wrappers, etc. under my 13 year old daughter's bed. She looked as if she was gaining weight but we thought it was her age. Over the last few months, she admitted to stealing and eating the snacks we bought for the entire family (9 people).

Short of locking the pantry what can we do? Has anyone experienced eating like this? What did you do to stop it?

I don't want to point out her weight gain but it is getting noticable.

Any pointers?


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Something similar happened in my family and the ONLY solution that worked was to revamp our shopping lists. We made lots of fruit available and left it out on the counter so people could see it and grab it easily. We also got rid of almost all junk food and replaced it with healthy snacks like: no sugar added applesauce, low calorie granola bars, sugar free jello/pudding, plain popcorn, etc. We also encouraged everyone to eat veggies, and served at least one veggie dish with every meal.

Sorry to say I don't think it's realistic to get a child to stop eating junk when junk is everywhere around, and everyone else in the family is eating it.

Ps. My mother did get junky types of snacks occasionally but she would hide them in her bedroom so she could dole them out very slowly.

I'd definitely tell you to stop t buying things like that. Not saying that food like that is so bad if you eat it in moderation but I am 164 pounds (I was 174) and I did the exact same thing. I ate tons of junk that my mom bought for the whole family (7 people) and I ate it all. I gained a large amount of weight in a short period of time and I regret it all. I'm only overweight because I binged like your daughter is.

I really think that I would be a ton smaller if my mom didn't buy all the junk food, I'm not saying that it's her fault I'm fat, it's mine for sure, but I couldn't control myself.

Maybe buy healthier snacks that still taste good? I always ask my mom why she didn't stop buying the food after she saw I was taking it. Don't buy junk food like that, buy healthy things.

After I stopped eating like that (I was about six when I started eating like that, I'm seventeen now...) and I started eating fruit and such things like chips and cookies sound really gross.

I'm only trying to help, I hope I don't sound rude or anything, but like I said I regret it so much and now I'm working at my hardest to get rid of this extra weight. I don't want your daughter, or anyone else feeling the way I did/do.

[/edit]I have a small frame and I used to be really small (really really small and active) until I started eating like that, I strongly suggest you get low-fat granola bars, fruits, vegetables, if you buy pudding try buying low-cal jello instead... things like that. (:

[/edit] Yeah, I think you should talk to her about it also. I think the reason my binging got out of control is because my parents got divorced (I'm not blaming that either) but after my dad left I totally felt like I was in control of my own life (at six years old!) because my dad was like the main control center in the house, if he caught me eating like that I would have been in a LOT of trouble. I didn't care about my body image at all either, all I cared about was how the food tasted and how yummy it was. My mom warned me that if I kept eating like that then I'd regret it but I didn't care. Simple as that. I really wish that I did though, it really ruined my middle school years and such. I basically always feel ugly and fat and I constantly try to hide my weight. It's rather upsetting.

I think I'm done now (lol) I hope I helped!

This must be a very hard thing for her to admit to. But the best thing, in my opinion, that you can do is approach her about the situation. Ask her if she wants your help, if anything is bothering her in her life that is making her do this, and maybe see if going to a nutritionist would be something she's interested in. It might be embarassing for her to talk about, so let her know that she can tell you anything and you won't scold her or put her down for it.

My parents are my biggest support when it comes to bingeing. They don't let me near my trigger foods, make sure i'm eating healthy, and measure out my portions for me. It's a pain, but it's better than losing control.

I hope this helps, and good luck!

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I would say maybe she has something going on in her life right now? She's 13, that is a rough time for a girl and probably for boys too. I know when I was 13 I was raging with hormones and more concerned with my fickle friends and social life. I would say talk to her about it, just ask her why she felt like she should hide it, what it feels like to do that, etc. etc. Counseling is highly recommended.

Also, the hormones she starting to have can also contribute to weight gain, especially around the middle section.

The binge eating is a symptom of a bigger problem, so I think you should get to the root of that and it'll hopefully solve itself. Child counselors are really the best way to do that. 

It's hard to criticize her for eating something that's made available to her, so I would say making changes the whole family would benefit from is a good start to showing everyone's commitment to a healthy lifestyle. So throw out that kind of junk food, it's unhealthy regardless of quantity! :)


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I should have pointed out that we usually buy things like sugar-free puddings, 100 percent fruit snacks, and sugar free chocolate because my wife is diabetic. But, yes, we do buy unhealthy candy bars and what not occasionally as treats for all of the kids. I have a weight problem myself so I avoid bad things and buy things like turkey jerky for me  but she ate the whole bag before I could get any. In fact, that is how we caught on to the binging because the whole 9 oz bag was gone in one night.

What is causing her to be like this? We are adopting her next month and she had a horrific childhood. Could she be depressed? She was acting okay before we confronted her.

Hm, that is rather odd. She may be depressed and be looking at food for comfort.

When I got depressed I used to eat my problems away. I think that you guys should comfort her if you're not, and if you are then try to do it more.

If you are trying to lose weight as well, maybe you should all (or just you two) go out on a walk every day together for 30 minutes or so. It's a good time to get to know each other a bit more. You can't really expect her to start pouring things out on the first time. I am not sure how she is but when I get depressed it takes me a long time to budge out the truth.

She could be like how I was and just eating because she likes to eat, however sometimes emotions have a lot to do with it.

I'd still try to revamp the food that goes into the house and if you aren't already go on walks and talk. Or you and your family can have family nights where you all just get together and bond. That may make her feel comforted and really at home.

Also, let her know that portions are a huge thing. If she wants some turkey jerky then tell her to just ask you for some, but she really needs to pay attention to portions. And that may not be a huge deal for her now, because when I was 13 I couldn't have cared less, but now that I've grown up and I'm overweight I definitely care!

I see that if you are adopting her (which is really kind of you, by the way.) you probably don't want her to start to dislike you (obviously) but you have to talk to her about weight sometime because as a teenager weight is a huge thing in school and everyday life and weight can really mess with a young girl or anyone's life and it can make them feel lower than low.

If you are seeing that she is depressed give her fruits and vegetables because they really help me when I'm depressed. Green tea also helps. So does exercising and by that I don't mean yell, "DROP AND GIVE ME TWENTY!" but like I said, you can go on walks, or play a game of kickball with the family or something... anything! Maybe you can get her into yoga, it may sound silly but it's extremely calming and anyone can do it. They have yoga videos for six to ten year olds, so 13 year olds can do it for sure.

Just be there for her, do the right things with her and the family and you'll probably see an improvement. =]

[/edit] Oh, dancing is also really really fun to do! Maybe you can all dance together. =] Or of course, being a teenager I know a lot of teenage girls that love to dance like no one is watching and just let loose. I saw an exercise on TV where you get a blind fold on everyone and you all just "dance like no one is watching" and it's really fun. Obviously, don't do it in a crowded room where someone is going to break something, but in a nice open space, maybe in your yard or something?

you don't have to mention her weight gain. but as others said eliminate the higher calorie snacks. let her pick out fruits and vegetable at the store. keep a few snacks in the house just make sure she doesn't eat them all in one day. explain to her that if she wants to eat she must eat in the kitchen- not because you are monitoring her but because of mess and wrappers and such. tell her she can eat whenever she wants- if she is bingeing maybe she is having issues at school or simply doesn't feel that she is allowed to eat these things in front of the family. just make it known that eat is perfectly normal and nothing to hide, but eating A LOT at once isn't good for her body (not her weight, just her in general)

i didn't read the section about you adopting her until i posted my first message-


maybe you can see if your insurance covers psychological appointments. i'm not saying put her on medications but maybe just send her to a psychologist to talk to. Since she is 13 and lots can happen in 13 years she likely has a lot to talk about. And while you can talk to her about it she may feel more comfortable telling a stranger if she knows this person will not tell you. Also, a therapist may pinpoint problems and make suggestions for her to live a better life with your family when you adopt her.


Congratulations on the adoption. I have a 14 month old biological daughter but my husband and i are considering adoption in about 3 years. You are really a blessing to this child, if she has problems with bingeing at 13 you are stepping in to help at a time where these habits are more easily reversible.

This happened to me when i was around that age, and just lately my parents admitted to knowing, but thinking i was going through a growth spurt. (i was depressed actually)

I suggest talking to her, but definatly not directly about this subject, ask how she's feeling, and try to find out if this is steming from depression

or she may simply be going through a growth spurt

hope this was of some help!

Thanks for your help and the help of all the others. We will try and put some of these suggestions in to action this week. I want you all to know that we have not condemned or responded to her in anger nor have we put her down in any way. She is a conscientious sweetheart and has a bright future if we can guide her through these rough waters right now.

I think all you all are great helpers.



I was once in that situation... I was about 12/13 years old and i got my self a depression. I was upset with the world... school, friends, family!!! nothing would make me feel happy, safe or comfortable! I felt like a fugitive, like everyone wanted something from me, or was after me for something... so I would steal the food from the kitchen and eat it wen nobody was around, wen they would say that it wasn't possible for the food to have gone so quickly I wouldn't say a word unless it would sound Innocent and unconcerned!!! By the time my mom figure it out I was a bit round instead of curvy, a really looked like a ball!!! Anyway my mom didn't confront me with the fact that I was stealing the food and eating it, she didn't even mentioned it, but she started to buy healthier things and no junk foods!!! then she took me to see a psychiatrist which made me feel really good about my self in the very first appointment!!! From then on he made some appointments, gave me some pills for the depressions that also would help me loose that extra weight I had gained, and he said that wen i would feel really bad to wright down what i was feeling and try to wright as well why I was like that, and if I would want to share in the next appointment We would talk about it!!

It wasn't the best days of my life cause of the way it all started but it was the days that I felt more support and more understanded!!! 

Hope this helps! I have a pretty good idea of how your daughter feels and the most she needs is support and comprehension, the rest will settle soon enough!


Andrew, did you say you had 9 children? Wow.

What everyone else said about healthy snacks is good. However, you also wanted to treat your other children. If you take all the bars, chips, whatever out of the house, and they find out why, they may resent it and even worse resent your daughter.

So I wouldn't stop that, rather change the methods that you do it with. Surprise them with a sweet desert after dinner (make sure there's no leftovers!) or bring them home a chocolate bar each.

I'm surprised no one else has mentioned yet that Binge Eating Disorder is an actual illness, and if that's what she has then you really should get her professional help. The types of support and behavioural modifications described here, which would help in most cases, could just make things worse if she already has an eating disorder, which from what you've described so far it sounds like she does.

Well, I have 8 kids anyway.

You are right, the other kids are normal height and weight and would resent being "punished" for TK's affliction. So I first pulled all the snacks together and locked them away. We have made an appointment with a psychologist for late July and hope she can hang in there. Thanks.

To be honest I don't think taking junk away from your kids would be punishing them. In the long run it'd be benefiting them and you and your wife. I think that junk food occasionally would be an alright thing but I don't believe it would be the best after dinner snack, and of course kids are kids and are extremely picky (you should see my brother!!) but kids don't get accustom to "healthy" foods until they've tried them and had them a couple times. Once a kid grows onto a food they start to like it more. (:

I personally would not want to treat myself to junk food, and I'd appreciate it if my mother stopped buying it so often. I also know that little kids or even teenagers (heck, even some adults..) don't really care about calories, serving sizes, trans fat, saturated fat. I don't believe kids should really care (but parents should) or become obsessed with it or anything - but those things are very important to take note of, even in younger kids. I'd rather have a healthy kid who doesn't eat so much snacks and candy bars and grow up to be a healthy adult than to have a kid who does snack and eat candy bars to grow up to be a fat adult who has health problems. And I'm definitely not saying you're giving your kids junk or that they are going to grow up to be fat, I don't mean that at all, I'm just saying I don't think junky foods are good for kids, and obviously they aren't.

I applaud the fact that you're seeking help, I think it was the best decision. Also, I hope I'm not sounding rude, as I said, I'm just giving you my personal opinion, it doesn't have to take any affect on you. (: I also think that taking the junk and locking them up was a good idea. =]

I do not think it is a matter of her just wanting to eat sweets. Binge eating like this, and then hiding the evidence is indicative of a deeper emotional issue. She is obviously aware that what she is doing is wrong, and is trying to hide the evidence.

I have been struggling with the same problem for the past 6 months. Sadly, I have gained 26 pounds in the process. I am meeting with a psychiatrist on thursday. Hopefully I can get through this. Please don't wait until this gets out of hand, it is a terrible thing to go through.

Sit them all down and explain that you'll no longer be keeping junk food in the house.  Explain it's not just because of your daughter, but because you've realised that you're setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy habits.  Explain that everyone will still get treats, but they will not be kept in the house and that kind of food is not welcomed in your home.

We have a junk food free house, no one's felt any spite or remorse or negative feelings about it yet.

To start, I'm not a psychologist, counselor or anything, but the first thing that jumped out to me is that you said you were adopting her soon and that she had a hard life. 

This is a wonderful thing you are doing for her but, this could also be the trigger (I think you said she just started doing this).  When a good thing happens to me, I often feel like I don't deserve it and punish myself with food.  Or I'm scared that it won't work out or I won't succeed and end up binging.  I can imagine she may be feeling the same way.

Take a little time every day to reassure her that you love her and no matter what she does you'll always love her and be there for her.  Also, if she's not already involved in sports or exercise that could help relieve some of the anxiety as well as help her out physically.  Plus it's something you can do as a family...sounds like you've got plenty enough to play a team sport Wink

I am going through the exact same thing with my 13 year old daughter! I have tried psycholog help (which she recented big time and got even worse), she is slowly turning to healthier snacks (I don't bring home unhealthy snacks but my husband does, I have finally convinced him to keep them by his desk and portion them out to my daughter and his (skinny) grandson.

My daughter plays soccer but is lacking stamina and mobility due to overweight, and the season was short and not very intense so physically the play didn't have a great impact (however, I am happy she wanted to participate and encouraged it greatly).

She refuses to walk the dog with me or by herself. I made a deal with her that we are going to the gym three times a week if I quit smoking, and she is going... but her efforts are minimal. I am trying to shut up and appreciate the fact that she is doing SOMETHING in the right direction, but it hurts me every day to see her dress in clothes that are too big and for this summer season also way too warm (hoodies, baggy huge pants, long sleeve shirts...).

My biggest problem is not where she is getting her food from, because knowing my own teenage years, food is everywhere if you are prone to binge, and impossible to control for a parent. What has me the most concerned is the behavior to use food as a drug. My daughter eats when she is happy or depressed, there is no difference between the moods, the eating is a feature in itself and I am beating my head against the wall trying to think of remedies for this behavior.

Lastly, depriving ALL kids in the family of "unhealthy" snacks does not have to be an issue. For example, this past Easter holiday, I replaced the usual Easter candy with fresh fruit that we dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts. This gave both kids "bad" candy but in lesser volume, and fruit in larger volume, and they both felt as they got a real special treat! A little chocolate that covers fruit once in a great while is not making kids fat, but a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies every other day will. Also, our 10 year old boy who is skinny as a shrimp, is also better off with healthy snack. The unhealthy habit are just as bad for your body even if you don't put on weight, something I have all I can do to convince my husband of.

This got lengthier than I had planned, but the subject is close to my heart, good luck all who struggle with this issue!


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So I know you've heard it from other people, but I wanted to re-emphasize that Binge Eating Disorder is a recognized eating disorder by the DSM.  I started with BED, not even realizing what was going on.  I would eat huge amounts of junk, hide the evidence, and then wonder why I did it.  It wasn't about the food at all.  I (unfortunately) progressed to Bulimia.  Some do and some don't.  It is an easy step though.  Some people eat so much with BED that their stomach hurts and they begin purging in some form or another.  Not everyone progresses, and certainly not everyone has the same level of BED.  The issue you described definitely sounds like BED, and (although I've heard it in other posts) I want to re-emphasize two things:  1) accusing her directly or indirectly by locking up food will make her feel worse.  She may not binge on junk anymore, but she will likely still binge.  2) Professional help is the best choice.  I know you said that you are going that route, and I am definitely proud of you for deciding to do that!  I think you've got a fairly supportive community here, and we all hope that things work out for the best.

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